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Anyone notice the band Yes hanging around? - 75%

ijy10152, May 1st, 2012

First I must say that I have listened to all of Rhapsody's music and I know it all by heart. I noticed a pattern here. Each saga starts off really symphonic and lighter with plenty of speed and metal laced in. Then as the saga progresses it just gets heavier and heavier culminating in the heaviest work to the present times (Power of the Dragonflame and From Chaos to Eternity are both Rhapsody's heaviest work and the end of a saga). This is the start of their second saga and starts off like I just said light and very symphonic with plenty of power metal intertwined. Also Christopher Lee being on this album just blew my mind the first time I heard it and officially makes Rhapsody's second saga the greatest story concept album set of all time.

The best tracks on here are Unholy Warcry, Sacred Power of Raging Winds, Shadows of Death and Never Forgotten Heroes. Sacred Power of Raging Winds really reminds me of the band Yes for some reason. The progressive/ symphonic side of this song really make it fun to listen to. This song is a really good example of symphonic power metal and really brings out Rhapsody's distinctive style. My favorite part is Luca's little duet with the flute player towards the end. Unholy Warcry is the power metal gem of this album, setting a metal standard and not just creating a good single, but a great metal hit that will be remembered for all time in the power metal genre. Shadows of Death is in the style of Sacred Power, but a little bit more metal with some really good guitar and keyboard sections. Never Forgotten Heroes is another spectacular symphonic metal song with some really cool Latin choir work to open it and a really catchy chorus, this song is a good follow up to Unholy Warcry. Elgard's Green Valleys was really unnecessary and personally I find it boring, but it just about everything else on this is very good with lots of progressive/symphonic metal. It's very complex which I really like, but it still manages to be very catchy and every second of this album is worth listening to.

Now I want to touch on the story a bit; this is the beginning of the new "Dark Secret" saga and right from the get go Christopher Lee explains what is going on and how this connects to the previous saga. I think that Christopher Lee doing the narrations was a brilliant idea and he really does an effective job and makes it sound less corny and more like you're listening to a movie (like the fellowship of the ring). The story comes back into play with a narration after the introduction with Unholy Warcry which talks about how the good guys need Dargor (a character from the previous saga) to get them into Dar-kunor where the lost seventh book that is supposed to resurrect an ancient god of evil known as Nekron (whom was defeated by angels 5000 years ago or something like that) is supposed to be and only he knows the way. Then Erian's Mystical Rhymes is where a secret council meets and decides who will go looking for the lost seventh book. Then in Sacred Power of Raging winds it depicts a scene where Dargor is battling with his demon half and struggling to overcome the evil inside him. The album ends with the heroes entering Dar-Kunor.

All in all a very satisfying start to a new story and a very good way to introduce it with some very excellent music (as usual) behind it, you should definitely get this album.

The magic is abandoning the enchanted lands - 75%

Kalelfromkrypton, April 16th, 2010

I’ve read through the entire pile of reviews and let me tell you something: all the guys are right. Whether is the walls of orchestra added or the fact that the guitars are going more and more to the background certainly all these reviews put the finger right in the stripe. For me, Rhapsody has been losing the band and I firmly believe it was here where all started.

‘Power of the Dragonland’ was by all means a stellar production with sing along choruses, epic and bombastic sounds and most important: a heavy metal release (whether power metal, symphonic metal, Hollywood metal or any other category you want to box it in). Thus, what is the problem with SOEL II?

Let me explain what I think it is, since it has not been mentioned yet: the complexity of the music has reached levels of undecipherable and unbreakable technical skills that you can barely enjoy it. I am going to rephrase. When you listen to pumping and crushing power metal classical/baroque enhanced sound of ‘Legendary Tales’ you can do a few things: 1. Head bang like back in the day with Helloween’s ‘Walls of Jericho’, ‘Keepers I & II’. The music was speedy, played with balls, fast riffing style and thundering double bass drums by Daniele Carbonera made this an album that you wanted to grab your air guitar and start playing around your living room or bedroom. 2. You could sing along with ‘Rage of the winter’, ‘Warrior of Ice’, ‘Lord of the thunder’, ‘Land of inmortals’ and the sort. In other words, they crafted the album so good that the choruses would stick in your mind for weeks and even today I clearly remember the lines without any problem. 3. Although complex in a way that the rainbow of influences included folk, baroque music, renaissance music, classical music, heavy metal, power metal and opera spiced influenced, the songs were simple and catchy. It was straight forward power metal with some enhancements here and there to create a new sound that was more and less unknown by the time this came out.

So the main problem with SOEL II for me is the extreme complexity of the songs. This is not bad per se but when an album is so complex that you can hardly keep track of the first track to the last one and considering this is one storyline-concept album then it becomes boring and begins to be forgotten in your cd collectors’ shelf. Don’t get me wrong, I love the band and I actually like all their albums except perhaps ‘Triumph of agony’. In other words from ‘Unholy warcry’ to ‘Nightfall on the grey mountain’ I cannot even remember one single line or chorus or anything. The music is that complex that you cannot actually remember one single riff.

Nowadays it is really difficult to come up with something that will appeal to masses because there are too many bands in every single genre that you can hardly pick up a band that sounds original without thinking of the clones that rapidly overcrowd the scene. Thus, this has to do with Rhapsody because they still, in some instances (saying the cinematic scope they focus on) sound different. The matter of the fact is that when they came out, not even Gamma Ray, Hammerfall, Dark Moor nor Sonata Artica had this orchestral sound and they used more the keyboards to enhance the atmosphere of classical music and epic sound. Today, Rhapsody seems to rely solely on this epic and full orchestrated sound. That is ok but permeates the album to be listened as one musical piece for soundtrack or score purposes, more than a heavy metal bombastic experience. Prove of that is the fact that the guitars go more and more into the background and the walls of violins, keyboards, cellos, flutes, trumpets are the actual standpoints and stars of the album.

The speed has been reduced severely and they now play more mid tempo songs with maybe only one or two fast songs. They are including ballads in their native language and more epic lengthy songs. This is the real scientific fact proving the path they are taking forth which is alienating more and more fans with every release.

As far as I am concerned this is a good album but lacks that catchiness that (as of today) only a few bands success to achieve, i.e. Stratovarius, Gamma Ray, Edguy. Even when considering they are not power metal per se today (at least not 100% but more heavy metal and even hard rock) and it lacks that simple formula that makes you enjoy and album from beginning to end. I enjoy a lot but I need to focus (meaning that I need to entirely rely on my mental capabilities) on the storyline and musical concept to enjoy it because sadly, the punch in the guitars, the bombastic anthem qualities and heavy metal are gone. I’d rather enjoy Legendary Tales, SOEL I and Dawn of Victory because they provide entertainment and provide the feel of wanting to grab my air drumming kit and start bashing it out. As for this release the complexity has faded away that entertainment factor that any heavy metal album needs to have. Check Stratovarius ‘Polaris’ for a class of how to do that. Virtuosity in musical composition is hard to achieve and this bands know what they do best and there is nothing wrong with that. I believe that when I want to listen to complex story lines, super complex songs and ultimate musical composition I may go to listen to Dream Theater, Symphony X, Shadow Gallery and yet, they kick ass with fast parts, fast songs, lots of guitar solos and rhythm passages that leave you hyperventilated. As different as the genres and styles of the bands I am comparing to Rhapsody HAD balls to play but lately, the magic is abandoning the enchanted lands.

Symphomania - 65%

doomknocker, April 15th, 2010

Well, it was bound to happen...after multiple excursions into the symphonic metal scheme of things by way of synthesizer, RHAPSODY finally were able to exude REAL strings and choirs to manifest their "Dungeons and Dragons" obsessive fantasies into some sort of realistic fruition. While I would totally enjoy the usage of orchestral maneuvers (both in and out of the dark) , by the time this little number rolled down the assembly line I was a touch worried that it was all starting to get too normalized. The occasional usage of such was great in small doses, but the onset of consistency threatened a cheapening effect should certain bands with no real symphonic nature attempt it (I'm looking at you, ICED EARTH!).

So it was with trepidation I stepped forth, into the realm of the Dragonlands...

I'll start off with the positive...the whole real symphonic nature WORKS for RHAPSODY, as their music demanded a that natural feel. The keyboard pandering worked for what it was, but its bombastic nature begged for a Philharmonic treatment. And the fact that it's been put at the forefront definately augmented the dramatics and pompacity more than any synth could. Such musical interludes are very rich and engaging in approach, definitely talented in its compositional factor. The band, of course, is a necessary part of the musical stew, where the flagrant guitar riffery/solos (courtesy of Luca Turilli, he of the Metal Mullet), pitter-patter power metallish drumwork and Fabio Leone's air-raid siren wails meet with the pulsing bass lines and underscored synth dabblings into a tight little fist of metal attempting so damn hard to push through the thickening miasma of orchestral madness. It takes a special kind of talent to be able to let 'er rip like that and fit with the overall sound as fluidly as can be, as heard on songs like ""Never Forgotten Heroes", "Erian's Mystical Rhymes - The White Dragon's Order" and the monstrous "Sacred Power of Raging Winds".

But alas, there's still negative aspects to be had. RHAPSODY's take on metal isn't everyone's cup of tea, and any "serious" metal-head just getting into this probably wouldn't be able to handle this without plentiful giggles. Both the musical and lyrical sides of this work are to be appreciated for what they are rather than what they should be, and such an action may not be easy to do given some people's tastes. Also the whole symphonic end, at times, comes off as VERY in-your face, like a proverbial "BOW! RIGHT IN THE KISSER!", and a little too ambitious and pretentious for its own good. It's not hard to hear the obvious talent involved in its creation, but the layers upon layers gets very Velveeta-ish and difficult to digest. This doesn't happen a lot, but they're still notable.

So in the end you either get this or you don't. I did, to a degree. While this doesn't always see the light of day in my CD player there will still be a part of me who could use such stylistic schmaltz.

At a push, mediocre - 66%

Dulthasil, March 23rd, 2008

Symphony of Enchanted Lands II is by no means a bad album. As you would expect with a band such a Rhapsody it does exactly what it says on the tin, yes it's ridiculous, the lyrics are beyond a joke and the classical parts sound like they're out of a second rate fantasy film. But quite frankly if you dislike any of the previous ideas then it makes you wonder why you would listen to it in the first place. Allow me then, to clarify why the relatively low score.

As an album it contains some variety, "The magic of the wizards dream" and "Unholy warcry" clearly sound different so they do in fact have 60% of all power metal albums beaten from this perspective. The classical writing although in Classical terms is very primitive, is effective in places, you cannot possibly say Rhapsody are not good at what they do.

The only main problem I have with this album is that it all sounds a little too familiar. They say in music if you have a good idea repeat it, however I do feel that making a career out of one idea (especially in the drumming) is a bit much. To me that is lazy songwriting it is very similar to what they were doing with Legendary Tales it's just back then they didn't have the budget. Their main selling point appears to be their idea of "Hollywood metal" as if it's an original concept, but it sounds strained, overused and frankly like they're running out of decent ideas.

If you are a person who enjoys all power metal you will probably enjoy this, it is in a different league to something as pointless and repetitive as Power Quest, but just because the music on this album is better than something truly terrible does not make it excellent. Guitar is less dominant on this album, but for me this actually improved it, despite the occasional noteworthy solo Rhapsody's guitar is on the whole uninspiring.

By no means a bad album however not a distinctly good one either, it certainly doesn't inspire, nor does it stand out as outrageously bad.

Give them back the guitars. - 55%

PhantomLord86, April 3rd, 2007

This one is easiest the worst effort from these italians. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy symphonic power metal a lot, even if it has a great amount of orchestration. But there is a limit to everything, and this record is no exception.

First and foremost, the songwriting quality has decreased a lot. The choruses are not as memorable as before, this album does not have a 'Emerald Sword', a 'Triumph For My Magic Steel' or a 'When Demons Awake'. The songs are not forgettable, but aren't memorable either. The best chorus might be the one in 'The Last Angel's Call', probably. The verses are not that good either - usually the guitar is doing some uninteresting ultra-fast palm-muted single-string riffing, while the drums treat the listener with a highly incessant double-bass rhythm, but the drums have always been the same with Rhapsody, so that is not something new. The bass is almost non-existent, and even with some good headphones it is hard to listen to it.

Second, the mixing must have been done in a 5 minutes per song basis, because it is really unbalanced. The most noticeable thing is that the guitar volume knob has been turned down to 4, logically making it hard to listen to and forcing the listener to concentrate to follow the guitar throughout a whole song. Also, the orchestration overpowers the rest of the band so much that there is a lack of balance between the metal instruments and the classical instruments. Another problem is the abuse of choirs, which are waaaaaay too loud in the mix, overpowering everything in the background when they are used, except the orchestration, obviously. The whole album is full of examples of this flaws, but for an easy one check 2:15 in 'Guardiani del Destino'.

I never had a problem with Rhapsody's big amount of narration, but this record has gone too far. There is way too much narration in here, and the music suffers from it. The narrator's voice is very suited to the task and adds a very epic feel, but he appears just too much.

But not everything is bad, as you must have guessed it due to the score of 55. The solos are very very well done, but it is a pity that they are not so frequent. The guitar solo in 'Erian's Mystical Rhymes' is very good, as well as the keyboard/guitar exchange solo deep into 'Sacred Power of Raging Winds'.
The singer is also very spot-on and never tries to hit a note far out of his reach, and doesn't abuse of overdone tremolos and other things that are annoying but used a lot in the genre. He makes tremolos, but not in a annoying way.

The album has 2 ballads, 'The Magic of the Wizard's Dreams' and 'Guardiani del Destino'. Both suffer from the mix flaws mentioned before, but nonetheless are interesting. Guardiani is a bit overlong, but that is not a major concern.

The 2 instrumentals, however, differ from one another. 'Elgard's Green Valleys' is boring as hell, but luckily it is very short. 'Dragonland's River' is much better, though not really good.

The best song here is easily 'Shadows of Death', firstly because it has a very cool riff, the guitars are actually listenable (during the first 5 minutes though), and it has a 'LOOK! I CAN PLAY FAST!!1' mind-blowing keyboard/guitar exchange solo that lasts about one and a half minutes, and a small solo in the final 20 seconds. It also has a slow section towards the end... basically all the things Rhapsody should be about, and the things the fans expect from them. The second best might be the opener, 'Unholy Warcry', which is very epic of course.

I can't say that this album is a good way for a newcomer to get into this band, better go check earlier works. The Rhapsody fan might be satisfied, but some (like me) might not.

A Higher Fantasy emerges. - 76%

hells_unicorn, February 23rd, 2007

And so a new saga has begun, and with it a new cast of characters to be introduced and a new plot to gradually develop. Naturally at the beginning of any epic there is a good amount of background information that needs to either be stated or restated, thus resulting in a slow state of development that is hardly for the short of attention span. Both musically and lyrically this album moves quite the same as the first book of The Lord of the Rings did, taking a lot of time to lay the groundwork for what is sure to be a grand saga meant to surpass the one that it follows.

The sound on here is an obvious attempt at marrying the pomp and grandeur of the first Symphony of Enchanted Lands with the heavier and more riff oriented approach to the last LP and the “Rain of a Thousand Flames” EP. To the extent that it succeeds in being a grand work with many lengthy chapters, however, it also fails in terms of basic accessibility. We’ve essentially got just a few too many songs that break the 7 minute mark, owing a lot to the lengthy narrations and atmospheric interludes meant to help give the album a very Hollywood feel.

The narrations by Christopher Lee are obviously on point, lacking the sometimes overacting tendencies of Lansford’s approach to the monologues on previous works, and come as more appropriate to the High Fantasy genre. The obvious highlight is the long narration on the opening track “The Dark Secret”, which was observed in an abridged form on the EP preceding this release. His dramatic recitation of an incantation at the beginning of “Sacred Power of Raging Winds”, which was also observed on the Dark Secret EP, further gives this release the grandeur that Lee brought to the role of Saruman in the Lord of the Rings series.

Musically the album listens like a book on tape, though quite a dramatic and entertaining listen, unless taken as a whole there are very few songs on here that can stand on their own. Surprisingly most of the best songs on here are the shorter ones. “Unholy Warcry” is heavily similar to “Emerald Sword”, featuring a prominent introductory theme and a powerful chorus, not to mention an incredible guitar solo that goes through a large collection of melodic themes and motive based shred leads. “Never Forgotten Realms” listens heavily similar to “Wisdom of Kings”, featuring a similar chord progression and beat during the verses, and a hyper speed double bass driven chorus. “Magic of the Wizard’s Dream” is an interesting hybrid of “Wings of Destiny” off the first Symphony of Enchanted Lands release and “Lamento Erocio” off the Power of the Dragonflame, featuring a consonant yet mournful atmosphere and a moving choir of voices.

After the first 5 songs, which are remarkably similar to the 2nd Rhapsody LP, things shift into more of a “Rain of a Thousand Flames” format and a lot of longer songs are featured. “Sacred Power of Raging Winds” and “Shadows of Death” are the most musically intricate and amazing, the former showcasing a large amount of atmosphere and diversity, the latter flirting with the Progressive approach of Symphony X’s later material. “The Last Angels’ Call” is among the shorter and catchier of the later half of the release, featuring another chorus reminiscent of the triumphant fanfares that the band is known for. Most of the remaining material on here works well, but is heavily oriented towards story and listens a lot like film score. “Erian’s Mystical Rhymes” is probably the hardest to follow, as it contains the most story content of all the tracks and a lot of rapid changes to fit the unsettled prelude to what will later develop into a dreadful ordeal.

All in all, a solid Rhapsody release with the same flaws that any beginning to a high fantasy saga. Its greatest weakness is that it is only the beginning of a new series of conceptions by this well established outfit, and its long winded songs will likely not be as listener friendly as previous releases. This flaw has since been remedied on this album’s follow up “Triumph or Agony”, which has plenty of shorter fanfares and most of the narrations localized to one super epic song, something more befitting this form of concept album. Fans of the band are encouraged to pick it up, but fans of the general Power Metal audience may be possessed to utilize the skip button a bit on here. Sadly we can’t all have an hour and 13 minutes to spend every time we wish to enjoy Symphonic Power Metal.

Unmemorably disappointing. - 30%

kalashi, December 17th, 2004

Having listened to this album many times in an attempt to find some redeeming feature, I admit defeat. Firstly, I must admit to not having listened to Symphony of Enchanted Lands I, so when I compare it will be with The Power of the Dragonflame (a far superior effort, in my mind). I had high expectations of this, so the fall was even greater (the only reason it gets 30 points is because I was afraid I might be being a bit harsh. Although I'm sure I'm not).
The orchestral and spoken parts turn this album into a boring, featureless nothing. Especially the first four minutes of crap from Christopher Lee, which I advocate scratching off the CD with a nail before you play it.
In some of the songs (Unholy Warcry, Sacred Power of Raging Winds) there is some hint of the catchiness of "Knightrider of Doom" and "March of the Swordsmaster", but this is always hidden behind a layer of symphonic rubbish and choirs. Blind Guardian can do it. Rhapsody fail here.
Also, whenever there is an unbroken passage of almost catchy music, it's interrupted by various tossers crapping on about the storyline. I'm not against storyline-themed albums, generally they are quite good, but the monstrous storyline has taken over the music in this, and destroyed most of what musical value was here. Instead of having 30 second bits of storyline (ala Blind Guardian) they seem to go for hours (actually about 2-3 minutes).
As I have said, mostly the instruments are hidden behind the rubbish; they're hardly worth mentioning. I don't think I've managed to find the guitar yet, the bass is non-existent; they could've removed them and just used the keyboard and drum and I don't think anyone would notice the difference.
Overall, the impression that I got from this album was that Rhapsody are trying to make themselves the next Mozarts, rather than trying to create a piece of enjoyable music. The album isn't unlistenable awful, there's just nothing of interest in it. Ultimately, the only thing worth buying this album for is the cover art; if you're looking for good, catchy power metal (or "symphonic" metal), look elsewhere.

They could be better - 78%

Benign_Hypocrite, October 9th, 2004

After the EP “The Dark Secret” which was a very good musical work Rhapsody released their new album with the name “Symphony Of Enchanted Lands Part II” a name that made us remember the second album of Rhapsody,”Symphony Of Enchantend Lands” which is one of their best in their career.Ok,now lets see if Rhapsody make a worthy heir to their past album.The album starts with the narration of Christopher Lee,”The Dark Secret”,very good idea,the voice of Christopher Lee is absolutely perfect for the narration of the album,gives more epic and theatrical type in the whole work.

The first song is “Unholy Warcry”,here we listen the epic and melodic keyboard tunes and the awesome choir.The voice of Fabio is one of the best I’ve ever heard,melodic,beautiful and emotional!One of the best in the power metal world.”Unholy Warcry” is one of the best songs in the album,fast rhythm changes and a catchy chorus here combined with the choir singing.The song is being interrupted by the narrator but then it blows up again.The guitar work is very good here,Luca makes fucking good solos.

”Never Forgotten Heroes” another melodic song from Rhapsody,it starts quietly but then builds up,very melody here and a great epic chorus,very good song.I like also the solo very much in this song. “Elgards Green Valleys” is just a musical part,I don’t thing that tracks like this give anything more in the album.Its just loss of time.

The fifth track “The Magic Of The Wizards Dream” is another melodic,epic ballad song that Rhapsody made for us.The chorus is very strong in this song,full of this epic feeling.Now we have a long epic track,theres two of them in the album,”Erians Mystical Rhymes” and “Sacred Power Of The Raging Winds”,the first is one of the classic long-epic songs of Rhapsody,you riffs and sudden rhythm changes,epic melodies and great vocals of course.

In this album the classic music feeling is bigger I think that there is more classic music here from the past albums.The bass is strong but the guitar is somehow “tired” but the guitar solos are crystal clear!The keyboard and guitar solos are still great.Some will say that the narration also is boring but I like the narration in this album gives a theatrical feeling.

”The Last Angels Call” is one of the common Rhapsody songs,not something special here,only a beautiful chorus.”Dragonlands River”,hm,another song with no meaning?A folkish track with no meaning I would say,I don’t like this stuff at all,I think that these songs are useful for the following songs,just that.

The ninth song is “Sacred Power Of Raging Winds” and I think that is the best track in the album,the dialogue here between the son and the demon-father is fucking awesome.Very good stuff.Full of dramatic and epic elements.”Guardiani” is one of the epic ballads of Rhapsody,yet it isnt something common,the chorus is very good,very epic I would say!One of the best refrains I’ve heard,I enjoy it every time I hear to it.

The other two songs are not something special,common Rhapsody tracks.Overall this album is good.However I would like Rhapsody to make something heavier and with no so much keyboards and choirs.I think that they can make something like that.The guitar sound here is weak I hope in their following album we will here strong guitar sound and not so much classic music!Even these things I liked this album,sure its recommended for a Rhapsody fan or someone who like music and melodic power metal.But if you like heavy things I wouldn’t recommend this album to you.

It's massive, but was it worth it? - 81%

Kanwvlf, October 4th, 2004

Let me start by saying that, on this album, Christopher Lee's narration is spot on. His voice is absolutely perfect for the job, with his excellent thespian pronounciation, and English accent, he surpasses all expectations. Unfortunately, once you get quite a way through the album, you've had enough of him, because there is around (if not more than) fifteen minutes of narration here, which is overkill, despite explaining the story well.

Now, my main problem with this album is that it appears to be Luca Turilli's hedonism all coming out as one, huge mastubatory, yet epic, album. He, and every single person on this album, manage to combine the symphony orchestra, and the fifty piece choir very well. But was it all needed? I mean, it sounds absolutely amazing, when the choir members voices are building up, with the orchestra accompanying them. And, yes, it does sound spectacularly epic, too.

Also, the guitar (as always, with Rhapsody) is usually drowned out by everything going on around it. This means, you don't hear the riffs very well, just the guitar being faintly rocked on in the background. The solos are generally as clear as day, and as they should be. We shouldn't have to suffer (used very lightly) masses of symphony and orchestra, only to be able to hear a slight maelstrom of riffing behind it. The bass seems to be rather high up in the mix, giving the album a needed heaviness, to counter against all of the orchestra. Also, Fabio's voice sounds to be the highest in the mix, and therefore expectedly blasts out above everything else. This can get a little tedious, and annoying. But, it sounds excellent once the choir are accompanying him. The drums seem to be a non-entity, never really showing anything special, just accompanying the rhythm section.

The songs on this album are all well constructed, but none seem to stand out like the amazing Unholy Warcry. The rest just seem to have the ability to meld into one massive blast of epic, despite being broken up by narration, and little interludes. This is also a problem with the album, as it can get tedious, as the songs to tend to have a very familiar sound about them.

Of course, if you're a fan of Rhapsody, and Luca's work, you'll eat this up. If you're new to Rhapsody, you'll probably really enjoy it, too. But, if you've been listening to them for a while, or are fed up of the whole symphonic power metal movement, this most likely won't do anything to change your opinion, or give you a new look upon the genre.

Kings, Dwarves, Elves, and Dragonlords - 96%

mak28, October 1st, 2004

First things first, if you hated them before you still will. They still have high vocals, lyrics about elves, dragons, mighty warriors and long heroic quests. The solos are still comprised of blazing fast arpeggios and double bass runs underscore most of the choruses. Also the singer is still named Fabio. lol That said this album is a big step forward for the band.

So, what has changed? To this point their albums were epic but they never had quite the scope this album has. The album feels huge. Also, in the past they relied more on speed with the classical portions coming more as interludes and as atmospheric passages in the middle of songs. That’s not the case anymore. The classical music has now been weaved flawless in and around every portion of the album. That could be a sticking point as I think the resulting lack of overt speed will throw some people and disappoint others. It did with me, at least to begin with. It pays off though as this time the album truly is a journey to listen to with tremendous rewards to be had along the way.

As mentioned, the album has a different feel to it. The songs are now more progressive then ever, switching moods dramatically at times, and everything feels darker and more serious. I mean it’s got cheesy demon voices on it and fantasy lyrics ripped straight from LOTR (seriously, royalties should be paid for this storyline) but the more progressive arrangements combined with huge choirs, the real 60 piece orchestra, and, most of all, the high quality narration from Christopher Lee and company add a ton to the amazing feel of the album. It’s much more organic, making for an even more fantastic listen. Thankful amongst the bells and whistles the songwriting is still intact. There have been times in the past when the melodies on their albums have just blown me away, where it’s just magic. Whatever moments of brilliance showed up in the past showed up in album form this time. Fabio, singing with more power and clarity then ever, busts out some of the best choruses and verses they’ve ever written. Guardiani Del Destino may even be the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard. That may sound lame but it’s incredible. The true highlights for me are the single Unholy Warcry with it’s super speed and stunning choirs, Never Forgotten Heroes and it’s galloping riffs and catchy chorus, Sacred Power of Raging Winds the aggressive powerful epic, the mentioned beautiful ballad Guardiani Del Destino, and the atmospheric outro Nightfall on the Grey Mountains. Every song has its moments though and I have no complaints.

I’ll close out with the obvious extras. The production is crystal clear and powerful, the performances are absolutely flawless, and some will love it, many will hate it.

The Bottom line: I think this album is going to take longer to get into than anything they’ve done before but it may also be the best symphonic power metal release ever. Time will tell. I will say this, I am still in awe at this point and this album has not left my CD player in days. It sounds incredible! Definitely a good sign after initial disappointment.

Rhasody's Symphony of Enchanted Lands Part II - 85%

Xero, August 25th, 2004

Rhapsody's Symphony of Enchanted Lands Part II certainly lives up to the typical Rhapsody format. If you were a fan of any of the prior releases, then you've found another album to buy or download. Thus far, in my experience with Rhapsody, I haven't been overly impressed. Maybe its the vagrant use of orchestra, which isn't overly poorly done. But, unfortunately, it isn't done as well as any classical composer would've done it. I'm sure Rhapsody isn't aspiring to be Mozart, but unfortunatley, as far as orchestration goes, they should be. They were the pioneers of that style, and they do it alot better than other bands who have recently tried to imitate their orchestration idea, for example, Cradle of Filth or Dimmu Borgir. There is a good 25 minutes of narration through out this album, signifigantly cutting it down in size, if one were evaluating it musically. The narration is done by Christopher Lee, which adds a certain appeal.

The guitars are placed intelligently, and Luca Turrilli hasn't failed us yet. He's an excellent guitarist, and he's the backbone of the band, if one of the members was. Unfortunately, the guitar is not used as frequently enough to allow for progression. You must understand, guitars are necceseraly important as long as there is plenty of keyboards and symphonics.. or so Rhapsody tries to convince us of. I'm not sure how much they've convinced me, but regardless, they manage to create epic landscapes through out the entire album.

One of my initial qualms with this album were Fabio Lione's vocals. He sings very like many power metal vocalists. While most of his epic choruses are memorable, the verses aren't always the most inspired. But, he can go from excellent vocal parts to some mediochre filler stuff. What I would call the album's interlude "Dragonland River", is a very well done keyboard/vocal solo. The vocals are done pretty remarkably well, in that particular song. He manages to campture emotions in a very classical singing style fused with english power metal.

A really stand out song on the album is "Sacred Power of Raging Winds". Its starts out with very well done power metal ballads, which changed my inital outlook on Fabio's vocals on this album. But, it goes to a really awesome flute solo. I don't know who played flutes on the album, but they manage to incorporate it really well. After, is guitar battling the symphony. Very awesome. The guitar kicks the symphonies ass, as usual.

The drummer, Alex Holzwarth, of Blind Guardian fame, is the most prevalent musician in this band. His drumming is heard throughout the album, keeping the pace in many songs, but it's stand out to say the least. This album is a definite must buy, if not a listen upon which you'll probably be drawn to buy it, as its a typical catchy Rhapsody album to add to your collection. Not bad. Definitely one of their best albums, athough they're just perfecting their style. Get it.